Yesterday we posted on the statements on corruption by the master of double standards, General Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council. In Thailand, there is always a double standard on corruption based on political alignment. Vast corruption is quite okay if the corrupt person is a royalist and/or a member of the system’s praetorian guard. Those attacked as corrupt are the ones who have fallen foul of a powerful royal or royalist boss or have somehow come to be seen as dangerous for the existing system of power.
Think of the vast corruption of General Sarit Thanarat, which had the implicit approval of the young, son-like figure of king and the old princes who were working for the political and economic rehabilitation of the monarchy. When Sarit died, his estate was estimated at about $140 million, a massive fortune at the time. As researcher Thak Chaloemtiarana points out in his famous book on Sarit, this wealth came from several sources:
Clicking on the snips included here produces a larger version.
Nothing much changed for his successors. Generals Thanom Kittikachorn and Prapas Charusathianrana were briefly investigated after their fall in 1976 and were found to have been massively corrupt. One Bangkok Post report dated 15 October 1974 is reproduced below, and is a partial accounting of their wealth:
It is well-known that the king got on famously with Thanom and less well with Prapas. Even so, the palace supported these corrupt bastards almost to the bitter end because the state and the economic, political and social power that underpinned it was crucial for the monarchy during the Cold War period. It is no secret that the generals and palace grew wealthy together in this period.
One of the interesting aspects of the wealth of these military despots and many of their underlings, including some of those who replaced them, was their close links with Sino-Thai businesses, as shown in an incomplete accounting in the Bangkok Post from 1 November 1973.
PPT is not just reproducing this data to show that the military was and is corrupt. In fact, following an email from a reader, we are reminded to indicate that the generals are both guardians and beneficiaries of a political and economic system that was corrupt in its genesis in the absolute monarchy’s conversion of personalized state wealth into capitalist enterprise, and which remains corrupt to the core.
As well as our reader reminding us of this basic point, we are motivated by a report at Prachatai stating that “12 civil society organisations” (CSOs) in the Northeast have condemned the junta’s suppression of freedom of expression, stating that national reform is only a pretence to enable the junta to maintain power for investors and the elite.” They deride the “reform” process as designed to “increase the power of the capitalists and the elite.”
As usual, the dependent Bangkok middle class is complicit in this fake reform, along with palace power brokers like Prem.
The CSOs call on the puppet “National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to stop passing bills as they are not the people’s representatives.” They demanded that “the junta to lift the interim charter and martial law, then organise local and national elections within three months and, in the meantime, impose the 1997 Constitution, which was dubbed the People’s Constitution’.”
As we are sure our reader would urge, perhaps there should be a move for a real people’s constitution.
Several of the group making this statement have previously denounced the military junta. The result was that some “were forced to report to the military at local military bases on 7 November. This included one activist who was captured by fully armed soldiers. Some were also forced to post statements on Facebook that they were treated well under detention.”
In the current statement “the group comprehensively denounced the legitimacy of the coup d’état and junta’s national reform agenda.” The group declared:
National reform and the process of constitution drafting under the imposition of martial law, which silences people from expressing ideas different from those of the junta, are unacceptable to the people; we believe that genuine reform must open space for people’s freedom to express opinions in a democratic environment….
Undoing the corruption that is at the core of the current regime – where the military junta is just the latest example – cannot be delivered by those who have suckled at its disreputable breast and now wallow in its trough of corrupt wealth and power.